In the business world, the marketing industry is packed with jargon. Today I thought it would be interesting to write this blog to explain one of the most fundamental distinctions in the marketing world: the difference between B2B and B2C marketing. Hopefully, by the end, you will know what they each involve and how they’re different.
What is B2B marketing?
To begin with we need to understand what marketing is – to bring a product or service to a market.
B2B marketing or business-to-business marketing is the process of promoting and selling your products and services directly to other companies. It involves a business whose primary customer is a different business rather than a consumer in everyday life. The target customer is usually the decision maker(s) in a specific business.
So, B2B marketing involves bringing a product or service to organisations rather than to consumers. For example, Vodaphone selling a bundle of services to a business as opposed to selling to a single consumer, that would be B2B marketing. Any marketing for these services – from social media posts to blog articles to advertising – would be B2B marketing.
What is B2C marketing?
B2C stands for ‘business-to-consumer.’ As HubSpot puts it, “it describes businesses whose customers are individual consumers, rather than professional buyers.”
Hence, B2C marketing is the process of promoting your business to consumers. It refers to companies that sell solutions, services or products directly to end-users. Their target customers are individual consumers who intend to purchase what they offer for their own personal use.
For example, Clarks’ will market directly to parents to buy comfy school shoes for their kids. Or, supermarkets try to convince you to do your shopping there by offering deals you can’t get elsewhere.
Advertising is one of the biggest and most important parts of B2C marketing, as it can grab the attention of a large audience in a short period of time. These prompts recall or create desire when shopping, increasing the chance of a consumer buying that product. Nike billboards, M&S commercials, Instagram ads for non-stick frying pans; those are all bringing products or services directly to the attention of consumers who will buy them for personal use. These are all examples of B2C marketing.
How are B2B and B2C marketing similar?
Well, B2B and B2C marketing are both marketing. They both use the practices that involve all the core principles of marketing, such as branding, awareness generation, messaging, targeting, and so on. They can involve the same marketing tactics.
As a marketer for many years, I have used a wide range of techniques that applied to both B2B and B2C: social ads, email marketing, content marketing, and so on. While the effectiveness of each channel varies from context to context, there is certainly tactical overlap between these two practices. Technically speaking, there is no difference between B2B and B2C marketing.
How are B2B and B2C marketing different?
First, B2B marketing is typically dealing with buying groups, while B2C marketing is usually designed to persuade one person to make a buying decision, i.e. B2B marketing is to convince a group to make a buying decision.
For example, Bays’ new cloud-based platform ‘Meeting the Need’ is aimed at multiple users from one organisation. We offer free trials to all new subscribers, but before they make a purchase, they will need to present the recommendations of the product to multiple stakeholders in their company to get approval for purchasing. Their buying decisions towards B2B marketing tend to require input from multiple stakeholders. It is a group decision, which is very common for B2B buying process.
This means that B2B marketing must convince both the trial user and the stakeholders in order to drive a decision to buy. It also means we have to design different messages – one to get our product discovered, and another from discovery to the buying decision.
Secondly, B2B marketing tends to have longer sales cycles. Usually, the bigger the group, the higher the price point, the longer it tends to take for a buying decision to be made.
This means that continuous engagement with potential buyers is crucial. Building relationships and trust with your potential audience over time is more important in B2B marketing. The goal of B2B marketing is acquisition.
Burger King, with its B2C audience, doesn’t need to have message that builds over time; they can just show you the same message featuring a burger and fries and hope that you’ll stop in the next time you’re hungry.
But, because B2B marketing involves convincing an organisation to make a purchase, it might take a few phases with multiple messages to complete the buying process. It could involve a social media ad to introduce the product, then some email shots that emphasise the unique selling point and benefit. Finally, it might involve case studies and testimonials that can influence a buying group to ensure your product fit to buy. It’s more relational than one-off.
Third, B2B marketing often comprises higher price points. Different campaigns and material will be needed for different business in different market segment, which can require more resources.
According to research, B2B marketing tends to involve more appeals to rationality, whereas a B2C marketed product can be bought impulsively, and so a quick emotional appeal can make the sale. B2B marketing requires a long process.
Finally, B2B marketing tend to target smaller markets with smaller groups of potential buyers; while B2C tends to target mass market.
For marketers, using the right tactic to sell a product is very important. For instance, a town centre billboard may be a great idea for B2C marketing; it’ll drive awareness and reach a great number of people. For B2B marketing, blasting your message to thousands of random people is a huge waste of time and money. It would be far more effective to develop a list of the 1,000 organisations that could benefit from your service, then market to those accounts specifically.
The same general thought process applies to all channels. Organic social media channels tend to work better in B2C. Direct LinkedIn messages are usually more worthwhile in a B2B context.
Today business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing is converging. One of the reasons is we are in the era of big data, and we have so much information that allows us to be more targeted and specific with our marketing campaigns. As someone that is quite new to the data industry, one thing I’m enjoying is gaining an understanding of how to use the data to help us deliver more informative messages and materials to our audience.